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Announcing the 2016 Community Reinvestment Fund Grant Recipients

Since 1992, the Willy Street Co-op has contributed $367,000 to local nonprofits and cooperatives to support developmental and educational projects for our community through the Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF). The fund is seeded when Owners who have become inactive and have not claimed their equity after three years either abandon or donate their Fair Share equity to our Co-op. Community Reinvestment Funds are allocated annually by the Board of Directors in accordance with our bylaws that stipulate unclaimed or donated equity that has been abandoned be dedicated to educational and charitable purposes. Grants from the CRF may be awarded to projects supporting food justice and/or access, cooperative development, sustainable agriculture, health and well-being, and/or social change.

This year, the Board allocated $25,000 in grant awards available. With 21 organizations applying for a total of $63,851 in funds, and the average request at about $3,041, the grants were competitive to earn. The committee paid specific attention to the potential number of people and demographics impacted by the projects proposed, potential job creation, professional or social development opportunities, strong partnerships to complete the projects, the hands-on nature of the projects proposed, and the organization’s demonstration of financial need. We are pleased and proud to announce this year’s 10 Community Reinvestment Fund recipients.

Madison Area Urban Ministry: Just Bakery, Phase 2 $5,408
Just Bakery is an “innovative, hands-on, 16-week vocational and employment skills training and education program designed specifically to meet the needs of an underserved population: men and women who have chronic barriers to employment, including a criminal conviction history.” Free for participants, Just Bakery provides job skills training, life skills, and job-readiness education through classroom, kitchen, and community sales events. Their expansion will outfit a new commercial kitchen for Just Bakery’s operations in a Porchlight, Inc. facility, increase training capacity, add a storefront bakery/coffee shop, and grow their product line. The grant will provide half the funding to purchase a semi-automatic dough divider-rounder for the production kitchen, allowing for quick and efficient bread and bun shaping.

Peacefully Organic Produce and CSA (POP’s): Mobile Shelters for Pasture-Raised Turkeys $4,670
POP’s CSA is “the first Veteran-owned/managed CSA and livestock farm in the area.” Veterans work and train on the farm; sell produce to farmers’ markets at the VA, UW, and Meriter Hospitals; and teach Middleton High School students to care for seedlings each spring. CSA shares are donated to veterans and families in need thanks to fundraising with Warrior Songs and partnerships with the County Veterans Service Office, Homeless Veterans Initiative, and the Madison Vet Center. Grant funding will allow for POP’s to construct six additional mobile poultry shelters to increase production of pasture-raised heritage breed turkeys. The Linda and Gene Farley Center for Peace, Justice & Sustainability provided fiscal sponsorship for this project.

Chrysalis: PopWorks $2,500
“Chrysalis provides vocational and work-related services for individuals in Dane County who have severe and persistent mental illnesses.” Their new social enterprise, PopWorks, is an opportunity for their consumers to gain valuable work experience by creating fruit pops from fresh and local produce and prepping them for sale at FEED Kitchens, and then selling them at small local farmers’ markets and festivals around Madison during the spring and summer months. “As the social enterprise grows, Chrysalis envisions PopWorks collaborating with local restaurants to develop signature pops to be sold on-site that will promote local businesses and further expand the PopWorks mission.” Funding will assist with initial start-up costs such as purchasing produce from local farmers, product supplies, facility rental fees, and wages for founding consumers employed with PopWorks.

Bayview Foundation: Growing Healthy Bayview Families $2,100
Bayview Foundation, Inc. is an affordable housing development providing housing to 277 low-income residents, primarily immigrants and refugees from ten countries. In order to adequately and healthfully address food security issues at Bayview, their proposed program will increase access to healthy, fresh, culturally appropriate food choices and integrated educational activities such as cultivating a children’s family heritage garden, preparing culturally appropriate snacksfrom CSA shares, teaching teens to preserve harvested produce to distribute in Bayview’s food pantry program, and making family meals together four times per year. Funding will support the family meals portion of the programming by providing fresh, local ingredients and the ability to hire a local chef.

STAR Credit Union: Grow Your Green $2,000
Located in (and fiscally sponsored by) the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County’s two locations, STAR Credit Union is the only youth chartered credit union in the world and was designed to instill good financial habits early in development to break cycles of poverty. Thanks to support from Summit Credit Union, youth “members are able to open a (savings) account at STAR, participate in meetings, gain employment, learn about their financial future, and increase awareness of cooperatives.” Grow Your Green is a partnership with Slow Food Madison designed to teach about farming in a sustainable, ecologically sound, socially responsible and economically viable way by evaluating profitability and the implications that sustainable farming has on their community. Culminating in the creation of a garden that “satisfies community need and generates profit,” Grow Your Green will teach kids about the food distribution system, how to develop a business plan and analyze profit margins, and how to apply their learning by planting, harvesting, and selling their produce at local farmers’ markets and through CSA shares. Grant funds will provide materials and supplies for growing, processing and sales; the garden plot; and signage and fliers.

Lussier Community Education Center: Summer Bounty, Full Bellies $1,858
“The Lussier Community Education Center is an innovative, intergenerational, green-built community education center open to the public on the west side of Madison.” As part of the center’s Summer Camp Program, the Summer Bounty, Full Bellies project boosts confidence in preparing and eating healthy, sustainable foods. As an extension of previous funding for the Madison Christian Community garden, Summer Bounty, Full Bellies will “ensure that those fruits and vegetables reach and are used by campers’ families” by offering weekly “meal boosts,” or thermal totes that include elementary student-grown produce, and food pyramid supplements and recipes prepared and planned by middle school campers. Funds will support the purchase of goods not provided by the garden, thermal totes and supplies, and program staffing.

Workers’ Rights Center: Farm Workers’ Rights Project $1,714
Workers’ Rights Center provides support, training, and organizing resources for low-income and immigrant workers throughout south central Wisconsin. Their Farm Workers’ Rights Project will provide “immigrant farm workers on industrial dairy farms in Dane County with the information and strategies they need to effectively protect their workplace rights and advocate for fair and just working conditions.” A minimum of three trainings specifically focused on labor rights for agricultural workers will educate farmworkers about their workplace rights and identify potential leaders to monitor working conditions for a majority Spanish-speaking workforce. Funding will support outreach and advertising, meetings, materials, printing, and project personnel.

Neighborhood House Community Center: Green’s Initiative $1,600
Neighborhood House has provided at-risk children with positive role models and academic assistance in the neighborhoods of Vilas and Greenbush for almost a century. In 2014, we provided funding to work with local master gardeners and officials in leading their community youth garden activities. Now they begin their Green’s Initiative, improving the garden they have started and incorporating other environmental efforts such as a clothing recycling program and composting through UW We Conserve. Funding from our grant will allow for building permanent garden walls, installing rain barrels, and planting fruit trees as part of the community garden.

Northside Planning Council: Healthy Food for All of Dane County Distribution Asset Map Project $1,600
The Healthy Food For All program is “an innovative local project focused on aggregating and distributing surplus produce and prepared foods to pantries, meal sites, and directly to needy households” specifically within the Truax, Darbo, Brentwood, Kennedy Heights, Vera Court, Owl Creek, Meadowood and Allied-Dunn’s Marsh neighborhoods. This year, the Northside Planning Council is planning to improve efficiencies for the program by developing a map that details the pantries, meal sites, transitional housing providers, and alternative distribution channels where they can distribute surplus food and identify neighborhood volunteers for the program countywide. Funding will provide stipends for neighborhood volunteers from the Free Vegetables for School Children program who help distribute produce in the target neighborhoods.

Red Caboose Child Care Center: Camp Caboose Cooks! $1,550
Red Caboose has provided care to young children on Madison’s east side since 1972 and offers Camp Caboose at Marquette Elementary School each summer. On Fridays, Camp Caboose Cooks! allows six- to 12-year-old campers to “plan, harvest, and prepare a home-cooked locally sourced, nutritionally balanced meal for their community and families.” Funds will purchase two large CSA shares, a field trip to a local CSA farm, and nine field trips to the Madison Farmers’ Market and/or Willy East.

Thank you
Special thanks to our Board of Directors for continuing to allocate funding for this important community program, and to our 2016 Community Reinvestment Fund Grant Committee: Holly Bender, Board Member; gianofer fields, Media & Advocacy Coordinator (staff); Kyle Freund, Owner-At-Large; Meghan Gauger, Owner-At-Large; Michael Gay, Owner-At-Large; and Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services (staff). Congratulations to all the organizations! An informal reception for grant recipients to network and share their projects will be held on Thursday, May 19th from 6:00pm-8:00pm in the Willy West’s Community Room.
[*Quotations in the summaries are directly taken from the recipient’s proposals.]